Sunday, December 18, 2016

NXT Tampa 12-17-16

NXT finished its weekend loop by returning to its home away from home, the UACDC Gymnasium in Tampa. Outside of Orlando, this gym probably pulls in the largest amount of ardent NXT fans. This Saturday night would be no different as fans piled in the last Florida NXT show of 2016. By nature, these house shows at Christmas are delightfully weird, with odd booking and seemingly thrown together matches. With much of the roster touring or heading home for Christmas, it is often an all hands on deck skeleton crew.

Steve Cutler vs Adrian Jaoude
The night opened up with former marine Steve Cutler taking on with the Brazilian Adrian Jaoude. This opener started with Cutler dictating the pace by avoiding the Jaoude, eliciting a chicken chant from the crowd. The action begins with lots of arm drags and arm bars in the favor of the Brazilian Jaoude. Eventually, Cutler takes control after a cheap shot. He punishes Jaoude with a slow-paced offense culminating in a mean lariat and a painful looking double stomp. Adrian Jaoude would soon make a comeback showing off his aikido background with an impressive flurry of strikes before tossing Cutler with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex. Adrian Jaoude then defeated Steve Cutler with a fisherman’s suplex. This was a good opener. I like Cutler as a heel, I say give him a house show push and see what happens. Adrian Jaoude’s amateur background is obvious, and impressive… all the man needs is a connection with the crowd.

Nikki Cross vs Macey
Macey started with a surprisingly strong offense. Cross rethought her strategy and attacked only for Macey to thwart her again. Some of Macey’s offense is still worrisome to me, but she did do a nice 619 spot around the ring post. Much to my chagrin, it was an unusually one-side match. Finally, thanks to a distraction from Eric Young, Nikki took control and defeated Macey with a beautiful and brutal looking fisherman’s neckbreaker. Like I reiterate every blog post and to everyone that will listen, Nikki Cross is a gem of the women’s division, her body of work speaks for its self. Macey has a lot of potential but is getting pushed way too fast.

Kona Reeves vs Gran Metallik
This match had much of the high flying and impressive ringwork you have come to expect from Metallik. However, there were several blown spots too due to Kona having a hard time keeping pace with the speedy luchador. When the pace slowed, Reeves did fine grounding Metallik. After a back and forth battle Gran Metallik countered a fireman’s carry into a DDT for the win. I really enjoy Gran Metallik, he is easily going to be a major player in the cruiserweight division. Kona Reeves has the tools to go far, just a matter of honing them and finding a gimmick that works with the crowd.

Next, Kayla came out to interview Dan Matha. He’s in a bad mood and says all everyone is talking about is Roderick Strong. He makes fun of Strong’s size and the fact it took him so many years to make it to NXT. He claims that when he walked in they took one look at him and exclaimed “Your hired!” It didn’t take long for Roderick Strong to come out where they exchanged words before calling out a ref to make it official.

Roderick Strong vs Dan Matha
This match was your standard David and Goliath battle, with Strong much of the match unsuccessfully trying to control the much bigger Matha. Early on Strong did find an opening with a flurry of offense, but Matha caught him on an outside dive and drove him into the ringpost setting the pace for the rest of the match. Matha kept Roderick grounded for the most part, shutting down Strong’s comebacks with some hard punches or a big boot. Finally, Roddy makes a last attempt at a comeback, rocking Matha with a high knee in the corner, and ultimately finishing him with a single leg dropkick for the win. Roderick Strong is such an asset to NXT, in a few short weeks he has put on some of the most memorable house show matches of the year. This wasn’t one of them, but then again not every match can be a dream match. One of the reasons NXT works is because of established starts working with rookie talents. At 6’7” and 290lbs Dan Matha is eye catching and moves well for a big man. He’s also strong and confident on the mic. With all that said, I believe he is still very much a work in progress though.

The Authors Of Pain vs Angelo Dawkins & Montez Ford
Dawkins and Ford are really melding well as a team, and it showed tonight. They came out and immediately took the fight to the Authors with a flurry of offense that included a beautiful running shooting star press from Ford. This match wasn’t as one sided as one would guess, and had a lot of back and forth. However, in the finishing melee Ford was tossed high over the top rope to the outside leaving Dawkins alone to suffer the Authors double team finish. I’m just going to say it, I’m not a fan of the Authors Of Pain… like it says in the bio, I am no critic… that’s just my personal opinion. Dawkins and Ford on the other hand are great together. Angelo Dawkins has been in developmental for a while, but Ford is bringing out something in him. It reminds me of when Jason Jordan was in the system forever, missing that something, until he was matched up with Chad Gable. Dawkins and Ford are going to get over, guaranteed.

Mandy Rose vs Daria Berenato
I’ve seen these two compete… a lot. However, the two have a lot of chemistry and it shows. Daria started off strong with some nice MMA striking, but Mandy would come back and dominate with some nice limb work. Rose worked the leg consistently through the match with several moves and holds including a nice looking dragonscrew leg whip. Daria also sold the legwork like a champ. However, Daria would make a comeback and finish Rose with a huge spinebuster for the win. I’m becoming more of a Daria Berenato fan with every match.

Sanity (Wolfe & Damo) vs Heavy Machinery
I like both of these teams a great deal, but again, I feel like this is something I have seen quite a few times. Nonetheless, this was a fun battle between four really big dudes. Unfortunately, Nikki Cross got ejected from ringside early on (watching her shenanigans at ringside great), but this still left Eric Young at ringside. Young was excellent at ringside throughout the match, verbally tearing apart the crowd while interjecting himself in the match. The highlight of the match may have been the stalemate between two hosses, Big Damo and Otis. The two ran the ropes and collided several times before Otis miraculously toppled Damo. This was a fun back and forth match with several false finishes until Sanity finally got a double team finish on Tucker Knight for the win. I’m a fan of all parties involved here. As the Sanity act continues, they continue to meld together greatly. Alexander Wolfe has went from showing glimmers of potential to being absolutely fantastic just on demeanor alone. Big Damo impresses the hell out of me… big, fast, intimidating man… an absolute beast.

Well, that’s a wrap on the NXT Florida Loop 2016. Whether I’m rooting for you or booing you, thanks to all the talent that make all of my weekends so memorable. I can’t wait to see where the new year takes all these guys.

Happy Holidays to all my readers, and be sure to check back on the 29th for a recap of Pro Wrestling 2.0 which has already confirmed Shane Strickland, Martin Stone, "Deathproof" Aaron Epic, and The Tokyo Monster Kahagas.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

NXT Citrus Springs 12-16-16

One of the best parts of the three years I’ve been frequenting NXT shows, besides the wrestling, has been having an excuse to drive all over the state. From metropolitan areas to rural nowhere towns, I’ve seen many places I never would have seen via the highways and backroads of Florida. One of those rural spots is Citrus Springs, a sleepy town somewhere in between Crystal River and Ocala. Driving the wooded back roads past “Bear Crossing” signs, you’d swear you were more likely to find a sasquatch out here rather than world-class international wrestlers. As the sun begins to set and your cell phone signal wanes you begin to feel hopelessly lost, but suddenly you see a gorgeous community center smack dab in the middle of nowhere.

The brand has cooled considerably on the Florida loop in recent months, call-ups and near constant touring for the marquee stars have caused a huge drop off in the casual fan base, and NXT looks a lot more like it did when I first started going. However, Friday night had a great turn out thanks to a last minute surge in ticket sales. I’m glad to see it because the arrival of the cruiserweights and several other fresh faces have reinvigorated the brand; I haven’t seen anything I’d categorize as a “B” show in a very long time. This show would be no different.

Jack Gallagher vs Noam Dar
I can’t think of many better ways to start a show than with than these two charismatic cruiserweights. When most people think of cruiserweights they think of flying and flips, but these two show that they can put on a ground game and be every bit as entertaining. Noam and Jackie boy put on a grappling clinic that went back and forth. Gallagher paid homage to Johnny Saint with the spot where he rolls into a ball, much to the chagrin of Dar. Both men came out of this match looking really good and it could have went either way, but Jack Gallagher got the win with a backslide pin.

Lince Dorado vs Brennan Williams
The opening of this match saw the underdog Dorado trying to find a way to compete with a much larger opponent. Dorado attempts a few dropkicks only to be swatted away like a fly. An attempted springboard didn’t do any better, as Williams just caught him with ease. Thus went most of the match, with Williams punishing the luchador. I’ve only seen Williams a handful of times, but I see a lot of potential. He’s a big, intimidating dude that showed some really impressive striking. He controlled much of the match, but after a few superkicks and a spinning heel kick Dorado would drop the big man. Then Lince Dorado would defeat Brennan Williams with a shooting star press for the win.

Next, ring announcer Kayla Braxton came out to interview the tag team of Angelo Dawkins and Kenneth Crawford. Crawford is now going by the name Montez Ford. They gave a short interview that really didn’t go anywhere, and culminated with them dancing around in the ring until Sanity came out to crash the party, setting up our main event of the night.

Mandy Rose vs Macey
This one was a textbook back and forth battle, and I’ll be honest, it was a lot better than I thought it would be considering there was no ring general here. Macey misses her strikes by a mile and her bodyslams are worrisome, but for no more matches than she’s had, she’s doing okay. And while Mandy has a lot of room to grow, she is at least as good as a Carmella or Nikki Bella. Mandy Rose defeated Macey with a facebuster.

Roderick Strong vs TJ Perkins
This was easily match of the night. Strong and Perkins started it slow, feeling each other out before the match would build into a frenetic crescendo. This was another one with a lot of grappling and submission spots from both competitors. Eventually, the pace quickened and we saw some signature strikes and a high knee from Roddy. TJP would later drop Strong with a dropkick to the knee and then a roll-up into a knee bar for the win. I can’t do this one justice, but if you are reading you probably know enough about both guys to know it was great. I’ve been a fan of Roderick Strong for a while and he has delivered some of the best house show matches I’ve seen this year in a few short weeks. TJ Perkins, I give him a lot of crap for his dabbing (and well, to annoy my teenage daughter) but honestly, he is impressive as hell, and is constantly raising the bar.

The Authors Of Pain vs Heavy Machinery
If you are a fan of a big old hoss battle, you would have enjoyed the hell out of this match… but I feel like I’ve seen this one too many times. I dig Heavy Machinery, I’ve been behind Tucker Knight through several gimmick changes, and Otis has “it”. I’ll say this about the Authors Of Pain, they really do come off as dangerous and destructive. When they hit the ring you really feel as if someone is going to legitimately get hurt, probably because we’ve actually seen it happen. After a hard fought, hard-hitting battle, the Authors Of Pain defeated Heavy Machinery after a double team to Otis.

Nikki Cross vs Daria Berenato
Nikki Cross is amazing, and she has embraced the Sanity gimmick with fervor. Meanwhile, Daria is at this point the standout alumni of Tough Enough. Together they put together another standout match of the evening. Daria started out strong with her speed and quick strikes, but thanks to a distraction from Alexander Wolfe, Cross was able to take control of the match and punish Daria for the remainder. Berenato made a strong comeback, but thanks to yet another distraction, Cross took advantage and defeated Daria with a swinging fishermans neckbreaker. I enjoyed this match a lot, Daria is improving at an exponential pace, and Nikki Cross… well, I can’t wait to see her with a belt around her waist.

Sanity (Eric Young & Big Damo) vs Angelo Dawkins and Montez Ford
This was a fun, albeit odd main event. Most of the match was very much a back and forth battle… until Big Damo tagged in, The Beast from Belfast is a mountain of a man that moves way too fast for someone his size (imagining Damo vs Strowman) and he dominated the match when he was in the ring. All the while, Wolfe and Nikki were great outside the ring being crazy and yelling at the crowd. Nikki Cross being antagonized by three little boys in the front row before yelling at them that Santa wasn’t bringing them presents may have been the highlight of the night. Kenneth Crawford, aka Montez Ford is a standout with a sweet running shooting star. Ford came in on the hot tag and cleared house until yet another distraction allowed Cross to pepper spray him in the face. Eric Young took advantage with a dirty pin for the win. Afterwards, Sanity began a post-match beat down, but Dawkins and Ford turned it around and sent Sanity packing to send the crowd home happy.

NXT is on a roll, and it finally seems as if they have achieved a nice balance between their touring shows and Florida loop. So whether you catch them in Australia or Citrus Springs, you are going to get a fun night of professional wrestling!

Friday, December 9, 2016

NXT St Petersburg 12-8-16

Dedicated to the memory of
Todd Garzon. NXT Head Of Security
Rest In Peace

Before NXT became a huge international machine that it is, you used to hear the term “NXT Family” thrown around quite a bit. It was an appropriate term to describe the rag tag group of regulars who came to know each other at these small intimate shows, and the relationships we formed with staff and the wrestlers too. As head of security, Todd was at the center of all of it and central to so many peoples NXT memories. He loved his job. He took his position very seriously, exercising authority when necessary. However, he loved the fans too and treated everyone like a friend. His favorite part of the job was watching kids’ faces light up when they watched the magic of wrestling unfold. My heart goes out to his family.

Thursday night the NXT Florida loop made an inaugural stop at the National Guard Armory in St Pete. With the touring roster still making towns across the globe, the cruiserweights and several new names stepped up to carry the NXT banner. In fact, I almost hesitate to call shows “A” shows or “B” shows anymore. The caliber of the roster is too great for that… in fact, these “B” shows are actually refreshing, new, and in some ways better.

Jack Gallagher vs Steve Cutler
With a unique blend of technical prowess and comedic elements, Gallagher is a great way to kick off a show. Jackie Boy showed off his grappling skills, and made sure to hit his signature spots including the headstand on the turnbuckle and tying a frustrated Cutler into a pretzel, much to the amusement of the crowd. Gallagher has charisma in spades. Steve Cutler has been in the system down here for a while, and I say give him a push (at house shows, anyway) and see what happens. Steve seems to have found some confidence since playing heel, he does well trash talking and bantering with the crowd. However, it wouldn’t help him here; Jack Gallagher defeated Steve Cutler by pinfall after a huge running corner dropkick

Lana vs Sarah Bridges
The ravishing Russian returned to the Florida loop for the weekend in… well, an interesting way. Lana danced her way into the ring like a party girl to horrendous dance music, dressed ala the Ziggler storyline. Lana comes off as enthusiastic and likeable, but the skill level just isn’t there. Even the very competent Bridges seemed to have trouble gauging Lana’s stop/start timing and dictate the flow of the match. The last time Lana came down here she was protected in tag matches and she came out looking much better, that’s the formula they need to stick to for now if they insist on moving forward with Lana as an in-ring performer. In the end though, Lana defeated Sarah Bridges with a sit-out slam

Tian Bing vs Kona Reeves
Kona Reeves (formerly Noah Kekoa) played the heel in this match, mocking Bing with martial arts chops and a crane kick ala the Karate Kid. The cocky Reeves dominated much of the match before Tian Bing soundly beat him with a flurry of kicks and strikes. Bing finished off Kona with a superkick for the win. I really like the ring style of Tian Bing, the man has it, and he just needs to make that connection with the crowd. Kona Reeves has all the tools, and a look that will probably suit him well down the line.

Cruiserweight champion Rich Swann is out next for an interview with Kayla Braxton. He briefly mentions his rough past, stating that his belt proves that no matter what, you can do anything. The massive Dan Matha comes out to interrupt; he is met with “Mr. Clean” chants. He mocks the champion. Undeterred, Swann tells him that with courage and heart he can get the job done no matter what. Matha tells him that we’ll find out about that later.

Noam Dar vs Gran Metallik
This was a fun match between two cruiserweight standouts. Noam Dar wisely played a ground game, working the arm of Metallik for most of the match. However, the luchador is about impossible to keep down. Gran Metallik mounted a comeback in the end culminating in a superkick and a Metallik Driver for the win. Both of these guys are so much fun. The young and cocky Dar has such a ring presence, while Metallik may finally be the luchador the WWE has been looking for.

Tommy End vs Roderick Strong
The match of the night was also easily the hardest hitting, as neither man is known for kids gloves. Strong’s strikes reverberated throughout the armory, while End exhibited one of the most impressive flurry of kicks I have seen in a long time. This was a brutal, fast paced, back and forth match that seemed it could go either way at times. Towards the finish, End nearly destroys Roddy with a crazy flurry of kicks and strikes. He stops to trash talk and is met with a sickening high knee, followed by a single leg dropkick that gave Roderick Strong the win. I’m a huge fan of both wrestlers. I was very familiar with Roderick Strong before NXT, but had only seen a handful of Tommy End matches… I feel compelled to go and find them all now, and so should you.

Daria Berenato vs Mandy Rose
Despite the fact that they are both rookies, these two women have a great chemistry together. This was a decent textbook wrestling match. Mandy Rose, who seemed to be on the fast track for a while, appears to be struggling to find her place again. One can’t deny she is green, but considering how long she has been wrestling, she’s progressing fine. Daria, on the other hand, has MMA experience and a plethora of strikes/kicks to make her look pretty good in the ring. However, it wouldn’t help her this time, Mandy Rose defeated Daria Berenato with a facebuster.

Dan Matha vs Rich Swann
This very lopsided affair saw Rich Swann getting dismantled for ten minutes, with only brief attempts at offense. In the end, he nailed Matha with a trifecta of kicks for only a two count. Moments later, Matha charges the corner, Swann dodges, and Matha goes shoulder first into the ringpost. Rich Swann rolls him up for the win. It was a painful match to watch, but did well in demonstrating the never say die attitude Swann.

Heavy Machinery & Hoho Lun vs Sanity
Tucker Knight and Otis Bogojevic dominated the early going of this main event, along with a few brief tag-ins from partner Hoho Lun. Eric Young, Alexander Wolfe, along with Big Damo struggled to keep up with Heavy Machinery who kept one step ahead. The crowd popped for the inevitable clash of the massive Otis and Damo. But perhaps the crowd was most behind the underdog Lun, who came in with a strong flurry of offense. Thanks to a distraction from Nikki Cross, Sanity took over and began systematically taking apart the much smaller Hoho Lun. He eventually made the hot tag to Tucker who cleared the ring before chaos ensued like it so often does in these matches. In the end, Lun ended back in with another surprising bit of offense before Sanity nearly killed him with a double team for the win. Afterwards Sanity attempted to completely destroy Hoho, but Tucker and Otis made the save. The good guys celebrated, and the crowd went home happy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pro Wrestling 2.0: Seasons Beatings 2016

Central Florida may be NXT country, but it is hardly the only game in town. There are a handful of independent options here in the I-4 Corridor, and one of the newest is Pro Wrestling 2.0, which we finally decided to check out Tuesday night. Pro Wrestling 2.0 is a professional wrestling training center/organization headed up by Alex “The Pug” Pourteau based out of a half empty strip mall in the Winter Park area. However, don’t let the modest building or the small shows fool you… several familiar indie names have graced the 2.0 ring, like its champions, Sami Callihan and Su Yung! Tuesday evening’s “Seasons Beatings 2016” would be no different.

Martin Stone & Snoop Strikes vs Jason Cade & Aaron Epic
The evening began with tag team action as Aaron Epic and Jason Cade took on the team of Martin Stone and Snoop Strikes. This was a great way to open the show in the way that it was a nice blend of comedy and action, from a “rolling” Stone paying tribute to Johnny Saint to the tope con hilo from Strikes to the outside. Cade (who I knew primarily from his impressive high-flying Evolve performances) was great bantering with the crowd, but perhaps his finest moment was exclaiming “All Hail!” before dropping Snoop with a pedigree. Speaking of Snoop Strikes, I had never heard of the guy before tonight, but I was impressed as he matched the flippy Cade move for move. Be on the lookout for Snoop. NXT fans probably know Martin Stone for his brief run as Danny Burch or his recurring role as enhancement talent, but here he shines as star of the match. The hard-hitting Stone won the contest for his team with a rope hung DDT on Cade for the win.

Lucha Cruz vs Josh Woods
This was originally supposed to be a tag match, but Woods partner Seth Petruzelli was unable to make it so it became a handicap match with Woods facing Cruz and…. a wrestling dummy, that mostly just sat there. This match started with Woods out-grappling Cruz. Eventually though, Cruz would turn things around and even perform some “double team” maneuvers with his partner.
This short, sweet exhibition match really seemed designed to get former NXT wrestler Josh Woods over. The match ended by submission when Woods tapped out Cruz with a knee-bar submission.

Pro Wrestling 2.0 Women’s Championship Match
Su Yung vs Santana Garrett
Up next are two of the most decorated women in the Indie scene, as champion Su Yung defends her gold against Santana. Su Yung came out complete with a black Santa hat and a bag of Christmas presents, however, every item she pulled out of the bag just happened to be a different championship belt that belonged to her. Santana eventually has enough and a brawl begins, goes to the outside for a long while before making its way back into the ring. Su eventually took control and punished Garrett with submission after submission. They would soon end up exhausted on their knees exchanging fist after fist. A referee distraction allowed Su to strike Santana with a title belt, but miraculously a babyface Garrett kicked out. A superkick and a moonsault later Santana Garrett would pin Su Yung to become the new Pro Wrestling 2.0 champion! This was a fun match, Su Yung is as good as it gets!

Pro Wrestling 2.0 World Championship Match
Sami Callihan vs Shane Strickland
Before the champ Sami Callihan could even make it to the ring, Stickland aka Killshot attacked. What ensued was a brawl all over the building, and into the crowd before eventually making it back into the ring. Callihan is an intense hard-hitting wrestler, and it’s a style that has been sorely missed at NXT house shows since he has been gone. Shane Strickland gave it back just as good though in what was easily match of the night. At one point Sami sent a message loud and clear as he exclaimed “WWE!” before dropping Stickland with HHH’s pedigree. In the final seconds of the match Strickland locked in a kneebar that had Callihan tapping a split second after the bell rang for a time limit draw. Still your champion, Sami Callihan extended a handshake and a hug to Strickland. Afterwards Strickland superkicked Calliahn and made off with the title belt.

Darby Allin & Rachael Ellering vs Tessa Blanchard & Joey Ryan
The action continues with intergender action with the team of Joey Ryan and Tessa Blanchard taking on Darby Allin and Rachael Ellering. Out first was Tessa with Joey Ryan on her back. The pair made it to the ring and Ryan explains that they were originally supposed to wrestle each other, but refused, as they are best friends. He tells us that they hang out everywhere together from the USA to Japan, and that Tessa even shaves his back for him. Their challengers are out next, Rachel Ellering and the explosive Darby Allin. Before the match can begin, Joey Ryan asks if anyone in the crowd wants his lollipop, which a young fan accepted. Then it’s time for the baby oil, Tessa graciously offers to oil up Ryan’s back… that’s friendship. Once the action starts, it is fast paced, back and forth action. Joey Ryan performed the dreaded “boobplex” on Ellering, and yes, Darby touched “it”. Allin found himself unwittingly with his hand on Joey Ryan’s legendary junk, and they played it up with gusto, as Ryan flexed his member before eventually flipping Allin completely over with it. Blanchard holds Ellering while Ryan pulls a lollipop out of his trunks and runs over to shove it in her mouth. Ellering ducks and Tessa takes the lollipop. Rachael takes advantage of the distraction and takes Joey Ryan down with a cutter for the win. This was of course, a goofy, but fun match. All comedy and sexual innuendo aside, the talent in the ring for this match was impressive. Tessa Blanchard and Rachael Ellering are both crazy talented for their age and are guaranteed to be major players one day. Darby Allin, has already gained a lot of notoriety for some truly crazy Evolve spots, and is one to watch, provided he doesn’t kill himself.

After a short intermission we are treated with three more matches with some of up and coming local wrestlers, featuring several students from Team Vision Dojo and 3D Academy.

That 70’s Tag Team & Trish Adora vs The Dudley Twins TNT & Lacey Lane
I enjoyed this intergender match, despite the fact that I was not familiar with anyone here, other than the Dudley Twins who I knew on name alone. Everyone did well, I thought, but Lacey Lane seemed to shine a little bit brighter to me and I’ll be on the lookout for her again. The Dudleys made an homage to their famous namesakes with their finisher, a Dudley Death Drop to Trish.

Robin Reid vs Brandi Lauren
This was a short, back and forth match with Brandi playing heel to babyface Reid. In the end, Reid defeated Brandi with a roll-up

Axx Clover & Raegan Fire vs CT Brown & Kaci Lennox
The show concluded with one more intergender match with Rex Bacchus as special referee. This was another fun one. Fans of big hoss wrestlers would probably enjoy Clover, who looks like a lumberjack. At several times the young Raegan refused to tag in, leaving Clover in a two on one situation most of the match. In the end, he was not able to overcome the offense of CT Brown and Kaci Lennox.

Pro Wrestling 2.0 is a great mix of up and coming wrestlers and established Indie stars, and I would highly recommend checking them out if you are ever in the Orlando area. They return early for a special show, Reloaded, on December 29th

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Full Sail TV Tapings 11-30-16

NXT fans once again converged on Full Sail for another round of television tapings. This round of tapings featured some new faces, Takeover fallout, and was a heavily DIY-centric round of tapings. The following recap contains spoilers for three episodes of NXT.

Before the evening began introduced Mike Rome introduced Tom Philips, Corey Graves, and the newest member of our NXT announce team, Percy Watson. From the sounds of the reaction, it appears plenty of fans remember the FCW/Season Two NXT star.

Dark Match: Wesley Blake vs Tian Bing
This was a short and evenly contested match. To his credit, Wesley Blake seemed to be a little more animated than he was the last time I saw him in Tampa, but still seems to be missing something. Tian Bing, on the other hand, is looking better and better with each outing. Bing is not a small guy, and he delivers speedy and believable looking strikes and kicks with a lot of power behind them. Bing definitely has the potential to do interesting things in NXT with the right booking. After a back and forth match, Blake missed a beautiful moonsault and made it to his knees to be met with a superkick from Tian Bing for the win.

Episode 1
Newly crowned tag champs Johnny Gargano and Tomasso Ciampa made their way out first to a huge pop from the crowd. DIY celebrated with the crowd making their way up and down the bleachers, before heading back to the ring. Before they could speak, they were already interrupted by Paul Ellering and the Authors Of Pain. They tell them that their celebration is premature, but before Ellering can elaborate much further he is interrupted by the Revival. Dawson says that they are here to claim their rightful spot as number one contenders. The Authors and Revival come face to face outside the ring, but the Revival wisely backs down. Ellering gets the last word, his Authors are going to be champions.

No Way Jose & Rich Swann vs Sanity (Eric Young & Alexander Wolfe w/ Nikki Cross)
The contagiously fun team of Jose and new cruiserweight champion, Rich Swann never fail to get the crowd pumped. Out next is the ominous Sanity; conspicuous in his absence was Sawyer Fulton. Eric Young was carrying a jacket with him, and it appeared to be Fulton’s. I’m sure it will be explained later with a backstage vignette. As more and more people are learning, Rich Swann is an amazing athlete, and perhaps the most charismatic performer in NXT. Unfortunately, after a strong start the size disadvantage would come into play. Sanity took control punishing the much smaller Swann. Wolfe has improved considerably in NXT, and the Sanity gimmick fits him well. I like Sanity a great deal, but for me Nikki Cross is what really makes this group. Nikki Cross is one of the most talented women in WWE/NXT. She has also embraced the crazy; her skulking around the ring yelling at fans and being weird is so much fun. I can’t wait to see her becoming more of a presence in the women’s division.

The fight spilled out of the ring and out of nowhere came Big Damo, leveling Jose. Eric Young took advantage rolling Jose back in the ring and nailing him with a modified neckbreaker for the pin.

Afterwards, an angry Damo heads up the ramp leaving Sanity looking confused as to what the big mans intentions were.

Kimber Lee vs Ember Moon
This was a really fun match, that actually saw Kimber Lee getting a fair amount of offense. However, in the end she was no match for the amazing Ember Moon. Ember finished off Kimber Lee with her top rope stunner for the win. Kimber Lee looked comfortable in a WWE ring, and I’m hoping we see her back next year for the women’s tournament. I’m enjoying the build of Ember Moon and can’t wait for the inevitable clash between her and Asuka. I’m not exaggerating when I say that match up has all the potential to be the greatest women’s Takeover match ever.

Otis & Tucker vs Johnny Knockout & Brandon Knight
Most people (including myself) remember Johnny Knockout best as the Braun Strowman jobber that liked big sweaty men. Unfortunately, for him and Brandon Knight, this match didn’t go much better than the Strowman squash. However, speaking of two big dudes, Otis and Tucker are two big powerhouses that are making more and more new fans with every match. This was a very short and one-sided match… but nonetheless Tucker and Otis are a fun team to watch.

Episode 2
This episode would feature four qualifying matches, where the winners of each match would be placed in a fatal four-way match to determine a new number one contender for the NXT title.

Ty Dillinger vs Eric Young
The first qualifying match would be a very short contest when Dillinger gained a DQ victory after Nikki Cross attacked. Afterwards, Dillinger thwarted an after match beatdown from Sanity… only to be attacked by Big Damo out of nowhere. Damo laid out Ty with a huge front slam followed by a senton. Another confusing stare down between Damo and Sanity followed.

No Way Jose vs Andrade Cien Almas
Jose is not the most impressive wrestler on the roster, but his energy is contagious, and he is showing a lot of improvement. Almas, on the other hand, has been absolutely great in his heel run. This was a good match defined not so much by moves, as much as the cocky and “tranquilo” attitude of Almas. What a good heel! Andrade Cien Almas won the match via pinfall after a hammerlock DDT.

Elias Sampson vs Roderick Strong
Sampson is out first with his usual banter and song, but I honestly couldn’t hear any of it, due to the nuclear heat from the crowd. This is probably one of the fastest paced Sampson matches I’ve seen, as opposed to his usual chinlock filled bouts. Unfortunately, he still doesn’t show the crowd much other than punches and kicks. Roderick Strong looks at home in an NXT ring, and here he carried Sampson through a good match. Roderick Strong finished Sampson with his gutbuster/single legged dropkick combo for the pin.

Oney Lorcan vs Bobby Roode
This was another very entertaining qualifying match, and even though I knew better, I found myself hoping for an upset victory. Lorcan gave Roode one hell of a fight, a fight that included some of the meanest uppercuts in all of the WWE. In the end, Roode managed to put Oney Lorcan away with a DDT. Bobby Roode has had a long and successful career, but one has to wonder if he would be this over in NXT without that damn catchy song… I really don’t think so, but he does make a damn good heel.

Sarah Bridges vs Peyton Royce
The former “Crazy Mary” started off the match with a fierce intensity… and yes, she is still crazy, letting out crazed yelps and dropping Peyton with a vicious running knee. Peyton managed to turn it around, slowing the pace and pinning Sarah with a fisherman’s suplex for a clean victory… despite Billie Kay at ringside. Peyton and Billie are both overdue for some sort of push, but I’m more excited to see what they do with Sarah Bridges.

Shinsuke Nakamura vs Patrick Clark
“The Velveteen Dream” Patrick Clark is out first looking more and more like Prince with the music to match. Then the place exploded for the charismatic King Of Strong Style Shinsuke Nakamura. Early in the match, Nakamura backed Clark into the ropes, doing his signature spot where he rests his head on his opponent and dangles limply. Clark answered by gyrating his hips in Shinsuke’s face, which fired up the former NXT champion. Not long after Nakamura would defeat Patrick Clark with a Kinshasa.

Episode 3
Daria vs Billie Kay
Daria started off really strong here and was possibly one of her best outings. She actually dominated Billie, until Peyton interfered. This was the only opening Billie needed, and she finished off Daria with a big boot for the win. Afterward, the mean girls took to the mic, again I couldn’t really hear much of what they had to say due to a raucous crowd. From what I gather they were sending a warning to the entire locker room… including women’s champ, Asuka.

The Authors Of Pain vs Johnny Vandal & Anthony Bowens
Our second squash match of the night was more of a massacre than anything else, with AOP absolutely decimating the competition. They finished with their double powerbomb spot, afterwards Rezar attempted to pick up Bowens for their finisher, but he crumpled and the referee called the match. Ellering cut a promo while medics attended to Bowens, who eventually made it out on his own two feet with help from the medics.

Number One Contenders Fatal Four Way
Dillinger vs Almas vs Strong vs Roode
Andrade started off really strong punishing Strong and keeping the other men out of the ring. It wouldn’t be long before all men were involved, and all the craziness you would expect in a near fall came along. All four men looked great in this match, that featured many great spots including the now mandatory four man suplex spot in the corner. Surprisingly, Almas was first eliminated after a one legged dropkick from Roddy. However, a few moments later Ty would eliminate Strong with a firemans carry neckbreaker. Ty and Roode immediately start trading punches, reinvigorated and fired up. Dillinger gets a real close count after a mean superkick, and then an even closer count after a firemans carry neckbreaker on Roode. It seemed Dillinger would finally get his shot, but after distracting the referee and dropping Ty onto an exposed turnbuckle, he finished with his DDT. Bobby Roode is the number one contender for the NXT title.

NXT Tag Title Match
DIY vs The Revival
You don’t need me to tell you that these two teams have amazing chemistry, and kill it every time they are in the ring together. In my opinion, The Revival are the best team on the planet right now, and DIY are easily in the top five. So it goes without saying that this was a match to send the crowd home happy. This was another great back and forth match that, of course, saw the good guys retain after nailing Scott Dawson with their finisher. Great match, and an altogether fun NXT tapings.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

NXT Tampa 11-18-16

While NXT's top players prepare for Saturday’s Takeover: Toronto, the rest of the crew returned to the UACDC Gymnasium in Tampa, Fl. With a sizable chunk of the roster north of the border, many fans wondered exactly what NXT had in store… apparent by the ticket sales in a usually sold out venue. This show was hardly a consolation prize though. With names like Andrade Cien Almas, Gran Metalik, Tommy End, Big Damo, and Sarah Bridges on the card, I’d hardly call it a “B” show. Much to the contrary, the show felt fresh and different. While performers like Nakamura and Asuka are always missed, freshness is exactly what many people need from a brand that has lost quite a bit of its magic in the last year.

Jack Gallagher vs Akira Tozawa
Regardless of how well the cruiserweight division is fairing on the main roster, it is benefiting NXT fans in spades. That fact was evident in our opening bout of Akira Tozawa vs Gentleman Jack Gallagher. This back and forth match was a great way to start the night illustrating the technical prowess of Jackie Boy and the hard-hitting style of Tozawa. The match was a condensed version of their CWC match with some of the same spots, including Gallagher tying a helpless Tozawa into a pretzel. This match was a lot of fun, and it’s clear both men are going to be a huge asset to the cruiserweight division. Jack Gallagher defeated Akira Tozawa with a huge running corner dropkick.

Adrian Jaoude & Cezar Bononi vs The Bollywood Boyz
It was team Brazil against team India in our first tag team match of the evening. Jaoude and Bononi controlled much of the match with the much larger Bononi taking charge over the smaller duo of Gurv and Harv Sihra. I like Jaoude and Bononi but they are both very much works in progress, showing a lot of potential. This match was your standard formula tag match with the Jaoude and Bononi working dominant heel over their underdog opponents. The Bollywood Boyz defeated Jaoude and Bononi with a double superkick to Adrian Jaoude.

Sarah Bridges vs Macey Estrella
The night continued with women’s action as Sarah Bridges, formerly known as “Crazy” Mary Dobson made her Tampa debut against rookie Macey Estrella. I was excited to see Bridges finally compete in NXT beyond enhancement talent, and she doesn’t disappoint. However, it seemed at times it seemed she had to force herself into a slower pace for the inexperienced Estrella to keep up. Surprisingly Macey dominated the match over an underdog Bridges. Estrella has much work to go, but seems to progressing more so than some of the other new women. Macey Estrella defeated Sarah Bridges via submission with an arm bar.

Big Damo vs Ho Ho Lun
In perhaps the most lopsided match of the night, the Hong Kong cruiserweight found himself across the ring from the beast from Belfast. Undeterred, Ho Ho used his speed to attack his opponent with a flurry of offense, which unfortunately had no effect on the massive Damo. Finally, Damo grounded Lun with one big strike and began systematically picking apart the much smaller wrestler. Lun mounted a small comeback to little avail. While it’s always fun to watch a monster wreak havoc, it also reminds us that for the main roster cruiserweight division to be taken seriously, they must be kept away from the heavyweights. Still yet, it was an enjoyable match as both men are fun to watch. Big Damo defeated Ho Ho Lun with a massive running crossbody.

Wesley Blake vs Kishan Raftaar
Wesley Blake is a good wrestler that has lost his way. In this match, the former tag champion that has taken part in some of the most memorable tag matches in NXT history, didn’t look that much more experienced in the ring than the rookie Kishan Raftaar. Both men looked competent enough, but compared to the evening’s previous matches, it slowed the night tremendously. After a back and forth match Kishan Raftaar defeated Wesley Blake with a sunset flip off the turnbuckle.

Tommy End vs Buddy Murphy
This hard-hitting match started before Murphy was done with his entrance as End attacked him from behind and threw him to the outside. They brawled briefly outside the ring before heading back in where Murphy mounted a comeback. What followed was a tremendous back and forth between the two. Tommy End comes to NXT with a lot of hype, and he delivered with a myriad of strong strikes and kicks. Buddy Murphy held his own and is probably the most underrated performer in NXT at the moment. Excellent match that culminated with Tommy End defeating Buddy Murphy with a brutal high knee. Easily match of the night.

Tough Enough alumni Mada came out to the ring next for a promo. He dissed us Americans and boasted his superior Egyptian bloodline. He seemed confident on the mic; I have yet to see him perform in the ring though.

Tino Sabbatelli & Riddick Moss vs Angelo Dawkins & Kenneth Crawford
This was your standard tag match with several false finishes and a bit of shenanigans. All four men seem to be benefiting from their new tag team affiliations. Moss and Sabbatelli seem to really be getting over with the fans, and I swear, they will probably be Vince McMahons favorite wrestlers one day based on physiques and hair alone. Nothing spectacular here, but entertaining nonetheless. Sabbatelli and Moss have an interesting tag finisher now; Moss hoists his opponent up into a Gory Special setting him up for a running bulldog from Tino. This move won them the match when Tino Sabbatelli pinned Kenneth Crawford.

Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas vs Gran Metallik
This was a great main event, maybe the best I’ve seen an already impressive Almas, simply because of how much he and Metallik work so well together. As imagined, this match featured lots of back and forth, fast paced, and “flippy” action. Both men looked great in this outing. Gran Metallik is going to be a major asset to the cruiserweight division, while heel Cien looks to have finally found his footing in NXT looking better every outing. Andrade ‘Cien’ Almas defeated Gran Metallik, after nearly pulling off Metallik’s mask and following with a roll-up. After the match, Almas continued to beat down Metallik, until the good guy turned it around and sent Cien packing.

 This was no ‘B’ show, with several new faces stepping up and the arrival of the cruiserweights, this show was as good as any other.